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APPLETON, Wis. – Chip Coenen seized upon an opportunity to chat with President Bush who stopped here to tout his ideas for keeping jobs from going overseas and encouraging the federal government to remove restrictions for small business start-ups. Coenen, vice president of business development and government affairs at $600 million Community First Credit Union here, shared the stage with Bush along with 60 others from a number of different sectors as the President spoke to a crowd of nearly 2,000 on March 31 at the city’s new Performing Arts Center. The President’s visit was coordinated by the Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce, of which the credit union is a member, Coenen said. “I would say the tone of his speech was a confidence builder,” Coenen said. “I especially liked his message of accountability, being strong, being leaders and taking responsibility for our communities and our families. He added a Midwest flavor.” Bush’s camp emphasized that the stop was not considered a part of his official campaign trek but an informal visit to Wisconsin, which has lost 82,000 jobs in the paper and manufacturing industries over the past four years. Still, the state’s 5.2% unemployment rate is below the national average of 5.6%, Bush pointed out. Coenen said Bush’s stop was pivotal during this election year because while Wisconsin has traditionally voted Democrat, the last few presidential races have been close. He said Appleton and Northern Wisconsin are considered more Republican in the midst of a growing Progressive movement. “Wisconsin is now considered a swing state,” Coenen said. “The presence of any candidate here is very important.” With the growing number of high-tech companies here that rely heavily on exports, Coenen said, these companies is poised to bring Wisconsin back around. Meanwhile, a number of “peaceful” protestors carried picket signs during Bush’s hour-long speech criticizing the President for his role with the Iraqi war and job losses, Coenen noted. Coenen emphasized that “it’s important for credit unions, especially the bigger ones that have the resources, to make their presence felt on the political front. Regardless of what side of the political fence you’re on, Bush delivered an experience of civic pride.” The ties to the President’s visit extend to Coenen’s brother who worked on the construction of the Performing Arts Center where Bush spoke and who had a hand in assisting with the extensive security detail for the year-old building. As Bush exited the stage, Coenen said he shook his hand and remarked `I see you got one of the better seats in the house,’ to which the credit union executive thanked him for coming to Appleton.. After Bush’s speech, Coenen said the President went across the street “surprising” attendees at an emergency management official conference to address that group. [email protected]

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